Good News and Bad News From Poland

Good News and Bad News From Poland, by David Goldman.

First, the United States has drawn a red line at the Polish border, making clear that America will shed blood if need be to defend its Polish ally. Second, the line is drawn around Poland, not Ukraine. The United States is prepared to reach an agreement with Russia over Ukraine if Russia stops destabilizing Ukraine and if it leashes its Iranian dog. The United States has sent a clear message — as the president reminded his Warsaw audience — that it will not tolerate the tolerance of terror by the Saudis or other Sunni allies. We expect Russia to do the same with its Shi’ite allies.

That is tough, but realistic. …  It was a brilliantly crafted speech, the slickest as well as the most inspiring foreign policy address of any American president since Ronald Reagan. …

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that Poland itself is probably past the demographic point of no return. …With a total fertility rate of just 1.3 children per female, Poland is headed for demographic disaster. Poland today has one retiree for every four working-age citizens. By 2045 there will be one retiree for every two working-age citizens, and the burden of elderly dependence will crush the Polish economy. In a century, the Polish population will shrink to insignificance …

Only one major country has come back from the demographic brink, and that is Russia. At the collapse of Communism, Russian women were bearing just 1.1 children on average. That has since risen to almost 1.8, just below the American level. The demographers have not yet offered us an adequate explanation of this unprecedented turnaround, but I suspect that it coincides with a revival of religion in the former fortress of atheism. Some 80% of Russian women now identify as Orthodox Christian compared to 30% just after the collapse of Communism, according to the Pew Forum.